OPPOSITION Jamaica Labour Party Member of Parliament for West Portland Daryl Vaz has conceded that his call for the eastern end of the island to be declared a national disaster zone in the wake of Hurricane Sandy late last month might have been "premature", but says the Government's refusal might also have been premature.
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday following an update on the damage from the system by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, Vaz urged the Administration not to close its mind to the possibility of making such a declaration, especially as there is still no final estimate of the damage.
"This is not a time for politicking, what I would like to suggest today, prime minister, is that the response that came from the Government to the call that I made in relation to tourism, in my own mind, was not acceptable but I understand and appreciate that you still say you don't have all the figures you need to make an assessment and, therefore, it would stand to reason that if you don't have all the figures maybe my call was premature and maybe the response of the Government was premature," Vaz said.
"Therefore, my stance is let us leave it on the table and let us complete the assessment and see where we are when we get there," the MP urged.
Last week, the administration said the preliminary estimates placed the damage at roughly $5 billion.
"The figures presented here today are a little more than what we got last week. As the prime minister said, she still is not in a position to indicate how much more than the $4 [billion] or $5 billion it is; when I made the call last week I did so on an informed basis," Vaz contended.
The West Portland MP said he was heartened by a similar call by president of the Jamaica Agricultural Society Norman Grant.
"Please, prime minister, agree that this is something we can continue discussions on in terms of a final decision and a way to handle it if the decision is taken," he said.
Responding to Vaz, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said "we are not trying to and we will never have the money to compensate persons for their losses. What we are trying to do is assist them to live their lives".
"I am waiting until all the verification is done so we can know exactly where we are and what is what," she added.
Last week, Information Minister Senator Sandrea Falconer said declaring Portland a national disaster zone could have adverse effects on the tourism sector.